Croc! had its world première at FrightFest 2022
In 2007, Stewart Raffill’s Croc was released, about a giant man-eating crocodile on the loose near Krabi in Thailand. Now Paul W. Franklin’s similarly titled debut feature has come out, about a giant man-eating crocodile on the loose on an estate “in the middle of fucking Hampshire” – but fear not, for the title of Franklin’s film is easily distinguished from that of Raffili’s by the handy addition of an exclamation mark, much like in Gordon Douglas’ Them! (1954) or Pierce Berolzheimer’s Crabs! (2021). That said, the original title of Croc! was the somewhat less emphatic, and altogether less meaningful Crocodile Vengeance, focusing on a creature which, although deviating considerably from the normal behaviours of crocodllians, does not ever seem to be seeking revenge.
At a country estate hired for a wedding and reception, bride-to-be Lisa King (Sian Altman) is not having the best of days. There is no wifi to livestream the outdoor event, her beloved father Dylan (Mark Haldor) – an anti-poacher and former ranger whose bearded outdoorsy ruggedness and way with the ladies makes him South East England’s unlikely answer to Chris Hemsworth or Jason Momoa – is always running late, and her lying fiancé Charlie (George Nettleton) is still having an affair with bridesmaid Georgie (Beatrice Fletcher). And to top everything off, there is a humungous rogue carnivore chomping its way through the guests.
“What’s a crocodile doing around here?” asks best man Ben (Stephen Staley), echoing the thoughts of any sane person watching this film. “Ben, I don’t know,” responds Charlie, who proves far more effective at averting major plot problems than toothy predators, “What does it matter?”. Later, when asked by Charlie, “Why is this thing here? Did someone put it here?”, Dylan will reply, “No – I found its nest”. It is a dizzying non sequitur that, while at least resolving the question of which came first, the croc or the egg, hardly gets us closer to comprehending the film’s central premise. Even stranger is the second giant reptile (”There’s two of them!”, as one panicking bridesmaid screams) which surfaces, only to disappear just as quickly from the film, never to be mentioned again. Meanwhile, even more absurdly, the injured Charlies uses the presence of a mass-murdering crocodile at his wedding as ammunition in a theological debate with the Reverend Jackson (Chris Cordell) about the problem of evil – which also serves as a metacommentary on the ungodly narrative chaos in the film. For here it is chiefly Franklin’s screenplay that moves in mysterious ways.
With its hilariously gratuitous sex scenes, ropey CGI, highly questionable human behaviours, and endless asides on the messy quagmire of married life (which the featured creature improbably embodies), Croc! unapologetically emerges from the B-movie swamp. Even the title is a pun on the film’s shit status. So it is probably best just to accept the ‘no reason’ of it all, and to experience the on-screen pandemonium much as half the wedding party does: legless, in company.
strap: Paul W. Franklin’s (creature) feature debut is a crock alright, but knowingly silly enough not to bite off more than it can chew.
© Anton Bitel